Thinking about the Sevso Treasure
John Henry Merryman
March 12, 2008
Stanford Public Law Working Paper No. 1105584
The Sevso Treasure is an example of what are frequently called "unprovenanced antiquities." Establishment archaeologists claim that by acquiring and showing them collectors and museums encourage looting, while collectors and museum officials contend that since the works have already been looted, they serve the public interest better if held by a museum or a collector (who may lend them to a museum). The demand for antiquities responds to a normal human interest in acquiring, enjoying and showing them. That demand could be met by a flow of provenanced objects in a licit international market, but retentive source nations, supported by establishment archaeologists, drastically constrict the supply, and an illicit market is the predictable result. Establishment archaeologists' misguided campaign to have unprovenanced antiquities considered illicit unless proved licit unacceptably reverses the normal order of proof and creates a probatio diabolica. A museum interested in acquiring the Sevso Treasure should be encouraged to do so.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 28
Keywords: antiquities, unprovenanced antiquities
Date posted: March 14, 2008